Finding outstanding Italian artisan wines in London is becoming easier. What used to be considered fringe is becoming mainstream in central London. In a few days, I sampled these five wine bars that all had an atmosphere of friendliness and conviviality…as well as quality.
5 William IV St. (Monument Station Tube)
Terroirs is both a wine bar and a wine store with a wide range of Italian winegrowers and vintages that was founded in 2008. The philosophy is clearly posted on the wall and coincides with mine:
Sitting at the bar, I had the “Lunch Menu of the Day”, ham and vegetable soup with fresh bread and a glass of white wine.
The wine list had a wide range of both recent vintages and some older vintages of artisan Italian winegrowers including:
COS Frappato Terre Siciliane IGT 2013
Arianna Occhipinti “Il Frappato” Terre Siciliane IGT 2013
Cantina Giardino “Dragone” Aglianico D’Irpinia Campania 2010
Emidio Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2011
Pacina “Il Secondo” Toscana IGT 2010
Elena Pantaleoni La Stoppa “Macchiona” Emilia IGT 2007
Elisabetta Foradori Granato Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2000
Elisabetta Foradori Sgarzon Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2012
I Vigneri di Salvo Foti “Vigna di Milo” Carricante Terre Siciliane IGT 2013
Elisabetta FagiuoliMontenidoli “Tradizionale” Vernaccia Di San Gimignano DOCG 2013
Ar.Pe.Pe. Sassella Riserva “Rocce Rosse” Valtellina Superiore DOCG 2001
The two barristas were Italian and fabulously knowledgeable and fun.
The same owners foundered other artisan wine bars in London that I couldn’t visit on this trip: Toasted in Dulwich, Soif in Battersea, and Brawn in Bethnal Green
2) THE VICTUALLER
69 Garnet Street
Wapping (Wapping Tube)
Founded in 2012 by Daniil Vshchilov, The Victualler is also both a wine bar and wine shop committed to natural wines. It is on the main street of Wapping on the Thames in a vivacious, young neighborhood that was once industrial docks. I stopped by to talk with the manager, Cecilia Menicucci, who grew up partly in Brazil and partly in Italy with parents, who met in the US. She did her sommelier training at the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers in Milan where I did mine.
Speaking in impeccable English, she enthusiastically went to the shelves to give me an idea of the range of winegrowers and vintages that she has available.
For Whites and Sparkling Whites:
Winegrowers like Angelino Maule, who founded VinNatur and is a leader in the “Natural” wine movement in Italy.
Iconic producers who have been making “natural” wine but never calling it that since the 60s like Emidio Pepe of Umbria and Lino Mago of Oltrepo Pavese of Lombardia…as well as the next generation such as Montesecondo of Toscana, Cascina Tajvin (Bandita) of Piemonte, Calabretta of Etna in Sicilia and Cantina Giardino of Campania.
12 Stoney Street
Borough Market (London Bridge Tube)
Founded in 2011 by Brett Redman and Rob Green, Eliot’s is at one of the entrances to historic Borough Market where all of the food is sourced. There was a market here at the time of the Romans and Borough Market specifically has been here since the mid-1700s. It is now home to about 70 organic, artisan food producers.
From meats to cheese etc….
I happened in late in the day when the stalls were closing and the vaulted ceilings echoed silence instead of the hustle and bustle of the morning.
I grabbed a seat at the bar at Eliot’s when the doors opened (otherwise, you need a reservation). It is a small café with a lively atmosphere.
There were fewer Italian wines on the menu, but I tried an interesting one:
a dry but aromatic sparkling malvasia that had been made with skin contact (orange wine) using the Classic Method (second fermentation in the bottle as with champagne) with grapes grown using organic/biodynamic agriculture in Emilia Romagna.
Camillo Donati Malvasia dell’Emilia IGP 2014
It was refreshing and light enough to drink on its own but structured enough to enjoy with my food. I nursed the one glass throughout the meal and even 45 minutes later, its tiny, fine bubbles were persistently rising to the top.
4) THE REMEDY
124 Cleveland Street (Great Portland St or Regents Park Tube)
Two former barristas at Terroirs, David Clausen (American) and Renato Catgiu (Italian from Sardegna), opened The Remedy in 2013. In the center is barman, Abel, who is French/Spanish in origin and a key member of the team. He is wildly entertaining and friendly while at the same time, serious in his knowledge of food and wine.
To give you an idea of how much fun The Remedy is…I had planned to drop in for a quick interview and ended up staying for two hours. By the end, I had tried seven different wines and was NBFs with the other people in the bar. The dining room is wonderfully small and intimate with the bar at the back.
It all started with Abel wanting to introduce me to Spanish and French wines that I didn’t know, beginning with one that he said, “You have to crack open by pouring from a high height.”
For lunch (only open for lunch on Friday), I had two Spanish dishes:
Red Pepper stuffed with a bonito purée
And Fried Egg over French Fries and Sausage, a recipe from Abel’s grandmother.
41 Dean Street
Ducksoup is right in the middle of the theater district, owned by Tom Hill (Chef), Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy. Pictured here is Rory (left)with two of his barristas.
I found a seat at the bar at 6:00. The atmosphere was upbeat with everyone enjoying the conviviality of the small space.
Since the wines and food change, there are chalkboards instead of menus.
I had a glass of Elisabetta Foradori’s Ampeleia Un Litro IGT 2014 made in the Maremma of Tuscany with 7 different varieties.
I didn’t have time to visit the sister restaurant in Hackney Rawduck.
My conclusion at the end of the week was that even though French artisan wine made naturally first took London by storm, the Italians have arrived. It was a real delight to find wines from winegrowers I know and have written about, but also to discover others that I will now seek out. Cin cin!